The next day, Ginny drives Linda and Pammy to the nearby community swimming pool. In the car, the children complain that they don’t like boarding school because they’re far away from the children they grew up with. Ginny tries to reassure the kids that they’ll have a great time at the pool, seeing children they haven’t seen in a long time. But deep down, she’s worried.
Notice how little time Rose spends with her own children, partly because of her condition, and partly because she seems not to feel much affection for them. Ginny seems to love spending time with Rose’s children, however, based largely on the fact that she doesn’t think she herself can have kids.
At the pool, Pam wears a pair of sunglasses that she bought in Iowa City, and Ginny realizes that nobody will recognize her while she’s wearing the glasses. Mary Livingstone, an older woman Ginny knows, greets Ginny, Pammy, and Linda. Mary tells Ginny she’s selling her farm soon and going to live far away. Ginny recalls that two of Mary’s sons were killed in Vietnam. Mary brags that she’ll be able to clear more than a million dollars by selling her property.
Even Pam, a child, intuitively understands the use of appearances and disguises—they’re a necessity in her community. Notice also that Ginny’s neighbors seem even more acquisitive and obsessed with cash than she does—Mary, for instance, brags about her millions of dollars in property sales. Everything in this community is tied up in both business and land.
Mary and Ginny talk about Ginny’s mother, whom Mary knew well. Mary tells Ginny that Ginny’s mother was more afraid of what would happen to her daughters after her death than of death itself. Mrs. Cook wanted her daughters to have freedom to go to college and explore their options, instead of staying around to work the farm. Ginny hasn’t taken risks in life: she never went to college, and she married young. Ginny begins to cry as Mary speaks to her, and Mary apologizes.
Ginny’s mother is the most mysterious character in the text—it’s hard to imagine what kind of person she was. Mary is a “witness” to Mrs. Cook’s personality; she suggests that Mrs. Cook wanted her daughters to break free of their father’s control, and implied that he was somehow dangerous to them in some way. Instead, Ginny and Rose have done exactly the opposite; they’re more tied to their father’s land, and therefore their father, than ever before.
As Ginny watches the children, she thinks about what Mary has said: Mary sized her up completely. She also realizes that Rose has ended up a lot like their mother, Mrs. Cook: both women ended up in the hospital at an early age, and they’re very similar in appearance and personality. On the car ride home, Ginny sighs tiredly, and Linda assures Ginny that she and her sister had a fun time at the pool.
Ginny seems to sense that she’s sacrificed her freedom by marrying young and declining to receive a good education. Similarly, she seems to recognize that the traditional path in life for a woman (in particular, marrying young, not pursuing an education or a career, and having children) does not necessarily lead to happiness, as evidenced by the lives of her mother and her sister.